Nepal Pictures Guide, Asia

Kathmandu monastery with Himalayas behind, Nepal

A Kathmandu Valley monastery with the Himalayas mountain range visible in the distance.

Earthquake April 2015
This was a colossal tragedy in the beautiful and fascinating country of Nepal but tourism is back in action and tourist dollars will help the country rebuild.

In Kathmandu most of the great ancient buildings and strange street artefacts survived and life goes on while outside the Valley trekkers are back and the mountains are still towering peaks of magnificence.

Furthermore there are less visitors than previously so this is a good time to visit this incredible country!

Best time to visit Nepal is September – May

Why Travel in Nepal?

The tiny republic of Nepal is relaxed and tourist-friendly, with an eccentric culture, a lot of weird locals and visitors, amazing ancient buildings, stunning monuments and wonderfully colourful handicrafts. And all this at prices that make backpackers squeal with delight and plan to stay longer.

Outside the Katmandu Valley, there are well-supported trekking destinations with sensational Himalayan mountain views, plenty of interesting tracks and villages, excellent guides and no shortage of little tea-houses/crash pads en route maintained by charming hosts.

Nepal is a sort of exotic India-China cross-breed but 50 times smaller than its monstrous neighbours, so tourism is possible in a week if you must, though ideally any traveller with fully functioning legs should save a few days and get out of the Kathmandu Valley for a stupendous Himalayan trek, short or long. You won’t have a real feel for Nepal until you see a massive, snow-dusted peak looming over you, with Pokhara as the main staging point.

Bodnath stupa

Bodnath stupa, also known as Bouddhanath, in Kathmandu.

Bodnath stupa

TheBodnath stupais one of Kathmandu’s most popular tourist attractions, but also an important Buddhist shrine so tourists share the space with colorful religious devotees, including Tibetan expatriates and sadhus. The area is calm and respectful but full of interest, statues, monuments and of course eating and drinking places that make brilliant people-watching spots.

 A beautiful old fountain in Patan region of Kathmandu, Nepal

A beautiful old fountain in Patan region of the KathmanduValley.

Nepal’s main attractions

***The Kathmandu Valley’s three incredible ‘medieval’ towns, full of bizarre monuments, fantastically carved woodwork and pleasant, peculiar people – sadhus (holy men) being a prime example. The three towns merge into one megopolis and are within an hour’s ride of each other.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan all offer incredible sights, much of it located in their Durbar Squares – all three have a Durbar Square!

***Pokhara, a relaxing mountain/lake resort town, great for spectacular views, relaxing short treks and a good warm-up for long treks, including Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna route.
Pokhara is a beautifully situated but unnattractively developed town. It’s about 6-8 hours from Kathmandu by a good bus and needs at least two days.
Other less well-known hill towns with more history or culture but marginally less convenience are Gorkha, Manakamana and Tansen.

*Wildlife Reserves
The best known and most geared-up to tourists is Chitwan National Park, Terai, where tourists go picture hunting for one-horned rhinos and tigers by elephant back – though tigers are rarely seen. Frankly this is more of a keep-the-kids-amused entertainment. Canoeing wildlife trips also on offer. Animal sightings are very limited. Best October – February.
Also possible but a little less sorted are Bardia National Park, Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace), and Janakpur, a Hindu holy city.

Machhapuchhare seen from the World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara, Nepal

Machhapuchhare seen from the World Peace Pagoda near Pokhara. It’s 6997m high, one of the smallest peaks in the Annapurna range. Photo by Schlauschlau.

Activities

Trekking: Mainly from Pokkara, including the serious hikes out to Fishtail mountain and Annapurna base camp. From a few hours to a few weeks Nepal supplies the routes, the vast scenery, the little colourful villages en route and the porters or guides, all at knock-down prices. Classic routes are sometimes known as teahouse-treks and supply all the necessities at the right times.

The Annapurna trek, for example, is best February-June and September-early December. This circular trek is suitable for any hiker looking for a challenge but does not require a huge level of fitness or any previous mountain trekking experience. 6 hours of trekking a day is the norm. Guides always include rest days and ramp the toughness up gradually, in order to acclimatize to the altitude.

Wildlife: Mostly at Chitwan. Kind of interesting and cheapish, but not remotely comparable to Africa’s sights. Not a prime use of limited time we feel.

White water rafting: One to four days on spectacular rivers, sometimes very remote, with camping. Beginners OK. Best Oct, Feb, March.
And if you like being in fast water kayaking, hydrospeeding and canyoning are also on offer.

Mountain Biking: this is a terrific country for biking, with clear air, little traffic and amazing views, though it can get hilly!
Biking the Tibet-Nepal Friendship Highway: it’s 700 kms (440 miles) long with hazards such as children throwing stones, dogs attacking legs, avalanches and unrideably rocky sections; it will take around 3 weeks.

Motor Biking: there’s plenty of trail bike hire available in Kathmandu and not too much traffic outside the city so this is a superb country for two wheeling.
Beware that road rules are a convenience and may be ignored by others and road maintenance is erratic, as is the behaviour of bicycles, dogs, chickens and cows. Kill a cow and you may spend 12 years in Nepal – and not in a Pokhara guest house.

A 500 year old shop selling spices, Kathmandu, Nepal

A 500 year old shop selling spices.

Costs

Nepal can be a fantastically cheap holidayif you choose to stay in one of many budget hostels or even a dorm. Eat local food such as daal bhaat (rice, lentils and other vegetables), avoid beer and take public buses or walk everywhere. Unfortunately one thing that is difficult to avoid these days is a charge to enter special tourist areas such as the three wonderful Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley unless you’re adept at entering stealth mode and can sneak in and remain undiscovered.

Accommodation

Tourism in Nepal has dropped off in the last few years due to varied global cash and transport crises so there’s usually masses of space available, no booking required and the place is totally geared to backpackers so plenty of guest houses, hostels and even dorms available for those on a budget.

Golden Gate, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Nepal

The famous Golden Gate dates from 1756 AD and is the entrance to the Taleju Temple Complex in Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur in the east Kathmandu Valleywas the capital of Nepal in the 14/15th centuries and now houses a dazzling collection of UNESCO World Heritage recognised temples, statues and other medieval street art.
This is a reallya living museum museum. More

Visas in 2013

It’s not neccessary to get one beforehand, practically everyone will be given a 15, 30 or 90 days day tourist visa on arrival in Nepal at airports or land crossings.
A couple of passport size photos are required along with a fee in hard currency (not the Indian rupee! ). You can download the application form in advance if you wish.

Visa are not granted to citizens of a handful of central African countries and Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.

Gold plate ornament on a pagoda, Kathmandu, Nepal

Gold plate ornament on a pagoda.

Nepal Weather

Best from September to November (Autumn) and March to May (spring).
OK but cold December-February. Backpacker hostels tend to have poor heating systems and high altitude trekking becomes highly unpleasant.

At other times of the year expect either extreme heat or regular rainfall and cloud that will block views of the Himalayas, hiking trails become slippery, rivers become dangerous and transport becomes irregular.

A funky old bag shop in Kathmandu, Nepal

A funky old bag shop.

Shopping

The arts and crafts on offer are amazing, and the prices low. From silver/turquoise dragon belt buckles to intricate tankas (complex religious paintings), bizarre masks, lovely carpets, embroidered T shirts with your own design and so much more.

Food

Not exactly renowned for its local dishes, Nepal nevertheless offers some excellent almost-Indian dishes of spicy vegetables, samosas, meat and bread, and almost-Chinese noodles, though too many budget travellers still stick to the global staples of burgers, chips, pizzas and pies. Ooh yes, munchie pies.
Up in the mountains almost-Tibetan cuisine is the staple, hearty soups, potatoes and pasta.
Vegetarians will have no problems here.

Drinks

Boiled water is served with meals but unreliable, so better to stick with bottled. Check the bottle seal is unbroken before use, refilling from a tap is not unknown.
Fruit juices and lassis are delicious roadside drinks but check that they aren’t boosted with tap water or sugar.
Good beer, wine and spirits are readily available.

Ancient erotic woodcarving on Jagganath temple struts in central Kathmandu, Nepal

Ancient erotic woodcarving on Jagganath temple struts in central Kathmandu, possibly designed to stimulate a flagging birthrate. Yes, it does pay to look up occasionally!